This past weekend I attended a Wonderfully Made leadership retreat at Allie's house. Our student co-directors for each of our college chapters attended, along with the four of us on the exec team. It was a beautiful weekend of female bonding, laughing, planning, and even horse-feeding, but the part that stuck with me the most was the devotional Kayla led on Saturday morning, taken from the renowned What Happens When Women Pray.
These are my takeaways...
Prayer is powerful, and a privilege.
Dare I say, I often forget just how powerful the act of a simple prayer is--let alone the power of many women praying together? It's a bit shameful to admit, but sometimes I let prayer become a duty rather than a privilege. Most often, those are times when I'm praying in a group (because, really, how often do you pray on your own when it feels like a duty?) What struck me most was the concept of "praying in one accord." As we pray together in groups, we are to silently lift up the requests being prayed aloud, thus praying in agreement with one another, or rather "in one accord." These united prayers are biblical and especially powerful:
"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)
"They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus." (Acts 1:14)
Before we pray, we need to remove anything that is in the way. Specifically, we need to release bitterness and extend forgiveness to those who have hurt us. In Mark 11:25-26, Jesus emphasizes just how important this is:
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."If Jesus felt the need to point it out then it certainly shouldn't be overlooked. Before making requests, we should take a personal inventory and choose forgiveness. After all, how can we expect God to respond to our prayers and even forgive our sins if we won't do the same for someone else?
Private & Public Prayer.
Our private prayer life determines the quality and validity of our public prayer life. Group prayer is not a substitute for alone time with God. (I am so guilty of this sometimes!) Practice prayer throughout the day, especially right when you wake up. God has a special way of speaking to our hearts in the quiet of the morning.
The 6 S's of Group Prayer
For me, this was the most practical piece Kayla shared with us, and something that is already transforming the way I pray with Brian and with my girlfriends. I encourage you to try it the next chance you have--it's amazing how much it improves the quality of prayer!
- Subject by subject. Go around in the circle praying for one subject at a time. As each person prays aloud, pray their prayer silently to yourself (this is where "of one accord" comes in).
- Short prayers. Have you ever prayed in a group before with people who seem to pray for hours out loud? Yes, some people are more gifted at eloquent prayer than others, but that is not the point. Keep group prayers simple, even as short as one sentence each per subject.
- Simple prayers. Avoid using complicated language and special phrases that can only be understood by some. Group prayer should have no pretense, and should feel comfortable for even the newest of pray-ers.
- Specific prayer requests. So often we request general things, which is alright, except that it can prevent God from getting the glory for answering our prayers. We must have the courage to ask for real, specific desires of our heart, and allow our will to be conformed to his (that means, even as you ask for something that you want to happen, you invite God to transform your heart to want what He wants to happen).
- Silent periods. Silence is awkward, we all know it. But that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. When we feel awkward, someone else may be hearing God speak to her heart. Remember, prayer is a two-way conversation. Not only should we make requests, but we should also allow silence so that we can listen for God's response.
- Small groups. Large groups can make prayer difficult and intimidating for most. Keeping prayer groups to less than 5 people is best.
Do you feel comfortable praying out loud in groups? Why or why not?